Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I spent most of the Sunday afternoon hanging out on the Internet doing research for my next writing project. The novel that I am currently writing is set in a real place, Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood.

Although I’ve not lived there, it is a place I’m immensely fond of and somewhat familiar with. Growing up in Hampden, another prominent Baltimore neighborhood, I experienced the same type of homegrown loyalty and love for place. Baltimore is known for its neighborhoods and these are two of my favorites (Fells Point is another).

Over the years I’ve shared meals in most of the restaurants in Little Italy, gone to Mass at St Leo’s Catholic Church, attended the St Anthony Festival in the Spring and St Gabriel Festival in the Fall (consuming even more food), shopped at the stores and shops, including Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop, strolled High and Stiles Streets hanging out and talking with the residents of this historically rich, charming and very proud ethnic community.

My story could only happen here. These characters live here, work here, they are who they are because of the culture of the community and their heritage. But like the rest of us they have to deal with what’s really going on in their lives and what, if anything, they will do about it.

The setting is as much of a character as the lead protagonists and if I do my job well, each will be clearly and memorably defined. It is important that I choose concrete details and set the stage properly if I am to succeed. But the job of a writer is bigger, we have to find meaning and share a bigger truth among the familiar sights and sounds and scents of the places and stories we define. This community has been around since the late 1800s and has undergone a few changes in its lifetime, yet always remaining true to it authentic self. The theme of my novel is all about personal transformation, openness to change and second chances while remaining true to one’s self.

And so on a warm Sunday afternoon I looked at pictures, prints and photographs that spoke to me, capturing them on my own online storyboard here at “Dialogue.” And thinking about setting as theme and character as I hang out with All Our Tomorrows my w.i.p.

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